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Alois Streicher Mandolin Tuning Machines 1900s Alois Streicher mandolin tuning machines About I found this set on an old maple/mahogany bowl...

A. Streicher Tuning Machines - PAT. OCT. 22 '95

Alois Streicher Mandolin Tuning Machines

1900s Alois Streicher mandolin tuning machines


I found this set on an old maple/mahogany bowl-back mandolin that had been heavily oversprayed and damaged. The tuning machines are in remarkable shape for their age and are almost entirely free of corrosion. The only identifying stamp on the tuning machines is PAT. OCT. 22 '95 which would refer to October 22nd of 1895. Bowl-back mandolins haven't been mass produced in America for a hundred years so 1995 was out of the question. 

I am not as knowledgeable on pre-1930s tuning machines as I would like to be. These stood out as being uniquely constructed compared to any other tuner I had seen prior and I was curious to see who made them. The fleur-de-lis shape on the end of the plates and the solid brass construction helped distinguish these tuners. Maybe this could help out someone else

Finding the Patent Number With Only the Issue Date

If you have used the search engine of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you'll know that you can only search patents filed prior to 1975 by the Patent Number, Classification, or Issue Date. These patents have been photographed (probably by some poor interns) but not truly "digitized" so you cannot search them for phrases or keywords.

I first conducted an Issue Date search for 10-22-1895 and found nearly 500 patents. The USPTO website isn't the most friendly for doing repetitive tasks quickly so I wasn't about to search them all. I then explored the Patent Classification route but was unable to determine which classifications existed at the time. The current "musical instrument" classifications did not exist then.

So I turned to one of my main resources for research, Google Books. The have a huge repository of digitized literature that is searchable by text and has been incredibly helpful in my work.

Annual Report of Patents 

I searched "october 20 1895 patent" and the first result was Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1895. This book contains all of the patents filed in 1895 and would contain the information I desired. I then searched the book for the term "musical instrument" and page 596 contained two dozen entries for musical instruments. I walked down the Issue Date column until I found "Oct. 22" and before me was the row for Patent 548,475, filed by A. Streicher, described as "musical-instrument string-peg device".

Excerpt from the Annual Report for 1895

Alois Streicher's Tuning Machines

Aloysius (Alois) Streicher, the inventor, filed the patent as the assignor to the The John Church Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. Alois was born in 1851, immigrated to the United States in either 1868 or 1871, was a "model maker" in the year 1900 and was listed as a "manufacturer" of "instruments" in the 1910 census. He died in December of that year. His son, also named Alois, was listed as a toolmaker in the 1900 census [2]. 

Patent Images from USPTO [1]

The worm gear brackets are actually stamped out of the base plate via die punches and are then bent at a right angle. The base plate is brass but the patent mentions a copper alloy as being an option as well. The gears are brass with slotted, steel screws fastening them to the post. The screws stick slightly proud of the gear which is curious but not a negative. The buttons are faux-ivory and melted on. They are secured by the peened end of the shaft which is very common from this era.

Backside of the machines showing the die punched plate



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